What the Mets and Rangers Got in the Max Scherzer Trade

Max Scherzer of the New York Mets

With just three days left before the 2023 MLB Trade Deadline, the Texas Rangers made a big swing for a starter. Former Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer will head to the Rangers, in exchange for one of the game’s best prospects in Luisangel Acuña. Here’s a closer look at the deal.

Related: What the Dodgers and White Sox Got in the Lance Lynn-Joe Kelly Trade

The Rangers’ Return

The Mets signed Max Scherzer in the winter of 2021, in a move that gave New York the brief opportunity to create a powerful 1-2 punch of Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. Ironically, the two are now teammates with the Rangers, even though deGrom recently underwent UCL reconstruction and is done for the rest of this season and at least most of 2024.

The 2023 campaign has been a down one for Scherzer, who’s battled back problems this year. The 39-year-old is still missing bats, even though his velocity has declined slightly over the years. Scherzer’s average fastball velocity is down to 93.6 MPH, over a full MPH less than his average from 2020 (94.7).

Scherzer can still trick hitters with an eclectic arsenal of pitches, which includes a four-seamer, slider, changeup, curveball, and cutter. He’ll use them all, but the key to Scherzer’s success will be whether the slider can remain an highly effective option like it has been in the past.

He’s used it less this season, and batters have hit .262 with nine home runs this season off the pitch. For reference, batters hit just .183 off it in 2022, and no one hit a home run off it. It’s seen more plate this season, and that’s led to a lot of trouble.

The three-time Cy Young award winner brings with him extensive playoff experience. Scherzer threw 133.1 career MLB Playoff innings prior to the trade, and he played a pivotal role for the Nationals in their run to the 2019 World Series championship.

This deal did come with moving parts. New York will send cash to Texas, as the Mets will play all but $22.5M on the remainder of Scherzer’s deal. Scherzer triggered his 2024 player option of $43.33M, which will allow the Mets to cover about $35M of the money left on his deal.

The Mets’ Return

  • SS Luisangel Acuña (.315/.377/453 slash line, seven home runs, 34 extra base hits, and 42 stolen bases over 84 games (402 PA))

Infielder Luisangel Acuña is the son of former Mets farmhand Ronald Acuna Sr., and the younger brother of Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. Luisangel likely won’t become the same kind of player as his brother, but the former’s proven to be a highly-talented, well-rounded infielder.

Yes, there is some resemblance among the two in terms of their stance at the plate. But, Luisangel has looked more like a contact over power hitter in the Minors. The 21-year-old does control the barrel well, and that’s helped him hit .315 over his first 84 games of the 2023 campaign in Frisco (AA).

Scouting reports believe that he can develop into a 20 home run hitter, and he’s flashed some power at the dish. Acuña is, however, prone to chasing at the plate. That is a stark difference from his older brother, who’s been rather disciplined in his MLB career. 

Acuña also boasts above-average speed and could stick at short. However, the 21-year-old does have roughly the same problem with New York than he did with Texas: there wasn’t a clear path to play short in the Majors with Corey Seager in Texas, and the same can be said in Queens with Francisco Lindor.

However, Acuña is very athletic. He could either slide to second — a position he does have MiLB experience at — or an outfield spot.

Acuña now joins a Mets farm system that includes catcher Kevin Parada, outfielder Alex Ramirez, and infielder/outfielder Ronny Mauricio

The Verdict

The Rangers rotation sans deGrom has been fine, thanks in large part to the dominance of Nathan Eovaldi, as well as a strong campaign from Dane Dunning. But with Martin Perez and Andrew Heaney both flirting with ERA numbers near 5.00, the addition of Scherzer can’t hurt — so long as the right-hander looks more like the pitcher that stepped on the mound at Citi Field on July 28.

Now, the Rangers can run with a playoff rotation — assuming no injuries — that includes two strong postseason performers in Scherzer and Eovaldi, and Jon Gray.

The Mets, meanwhile, continue to unload after a disappointing 2023 campaign. New York may not be done yet, as Tommy Pham and Mark Canha are both candidates to be moved, and rumors have surrounded Justin Verlander in recent days.

It doesn’t mean that the Mets are set to take a step back, as New York does have options to re-load this coming winter. But for now, the Mets have set the tone for how they’re approaching this deadline: fill up the farm with high-upside prospects.